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Introduction Kwame Dixon and John Burdick Over the past decade, the acceleration across Latin America of state- and socialmovement -led initiatives to remedy five centuries of racial injustice has rendered increasingly urgent the need for an examination of Afro-Latin America that is geographically broad, comparative, and analytically focused. Comparative Perspectives on Afro-Latin America is our effort to address this need, by engaging in a single volume key intellectual and political debates currently unfolding across the black Americas. Our understanding of these debates has led us to divide the volume into three main sections: Part 1 examines the processes and politics of black identity; Part 2 analyzes black political mobilization; and Part 3 addresses state responses to that mobilization. The volume seeks to provide a range of disciplinary perspectives,in-depth regional coverage, and cutting-edge analyses of Afro-descendant peoples in Latin America and the Caribbean. In recent scholarship, considerable attention has been paid to indigenous social mobilization across Latin America (e.g., Warren 1998; Yashar 2005; Becker 2008; Lucero 2008), and a comparable degree of attention has begun to be paid to the recent political mobilizations of the region’s populations of African descent (e.g., Sawyer 2005; Dixon 2008; Mullings and Marable 2009; Pinho 2010). Informed and challenged by this scholarship, this volume investigates how the region’s Afro-descendants are reconfiguring notions of citizenship, territory, race, gender, belonging, and nation. For many years the image in the scholarship about Latin America and the Caribbean was of a region where antiracism movements were weak or nonexistent (e.g., Wright 1993; Wade 1993; Hanchard 1994). For many scholars, class rather than race explained socioeconomic inequality, racial oppression was rare, and black identities were overshadowed by powerful ideologies of racial democracy. Today, these perspectives have been fundamentally challenged by a growing awareness among scholars that a new balance of forces has emerged in the growing network of civil society organizations and social movements,and the uneven 2  Kwame Dixon and John Burdick growth of state legislation to correct centuries of discrimination. Building on this surge of scholarship (Reiter and Mitchell 2010; Davis 2007; Dzidzienyo and Oboler 2005; Andrews 2004), we seek to enrich theory about race in Latin America by exploring the region’s various forms of black consciousness and identity, distinct kinds and levels of political mobilization, and the nature of state responses to these. The continent is currently witnessing a sea change with regard to all of these dimensions and we have sought to capture this change by focusing on new democratic spaces opening up for Afro-descendants to construct citizenship, intensify political participation, and claim rights. Most broadly, in this volume we trace how people of African descent are making their presence felt in new ways. What follows is a summary of the key arguments developed in the volume’s three sections. Part 1: Blackness and Cultural Difference In order to contextualize Afro political mobilization in Latin America we begin with what“being black” means in the region. For us,“being black,”“black identities ”or“blacknesses”(we use the terms interchangeably) refer to bundles of ideas and meanings held by particular actors in particular societies about people who are socially defined as“black” (“negro”) or“afro-descended” (Wade 2008a; Jackson 2005). Blackness is, variously, a form of consciousness among black people, a deliberate project to produce such consciousness, and ideas about blacks held by nonblacks (Hartigan 2010, 117). Throughout the hemisphere, consciousness and projects of blackness cluster around the ideas of common descent from Africa, a common history of enslavement and emancipation, and common experiences of social oppression (Wade 2008b), while ideas nonblacks have about black people center on racist stereotypes that articulate white fears of loss of dominance (ibid., 118). The contents of each of the categories—“Africa,” slavery, emancipation, oppression, fear, and dominance—and how these concepts cluster together vary from place to place and context to context. In order to understand the patterns of blackness specific to Latin America, we must begin by drawing a broad contrast with blackness as black consciousness as it developed in the “other” major empire of the hemisphere—that of Great Britain. Paul Gilroy’s notion of the Black Atlantic (1993a, 1993b) articulated the view that the collective experiences of diaspora, enslavement, and emancipation amongAfricans caught up in the British system of Atlantic slavery generated a consciousness among blacks that was simultaneously infused by the values of theAfrican homeland and the ideals of liberty,equality,and citizenship...


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